Breaking the Rear View Mirror

31 12 2013

Weather:  Well…it’s cold. And snowy. Proper winter for once. Been several weeks of temps in the teens with a rare 50º day shoved in there. After several years of weirdly mild winters, we’re getting back to A good old fashioned Midwest Winter. 

I usually use this post to note what has happened in the past year and start roughly graphing out what I hope to do in the new year.

Except this year has been particularly heavy on the downs rather than the ups. There’s been too much death, economic difficulties and negative thoughts. Plans fell through, depression killed a lot of creative output and yet again, the best of intentions collapsed under apathy and self-immolation.

The ups were less numerous, though I will say with much pride that we finally turned a profit at Einini Glassworks, which bodes well for 2014 if we increase our output and momentum.

So instead of rehashing the minutiae of the year, I’m gonna just smash the rear view mirror and focus on looking forward.

I’m making big plans for the upcoming year. I’ve sunk so far into a rut that I don’t much like the person I’ve become. Instead of lamenting the person who seems to be wearing my skin, and badly at that, I’m going to figure out what person I am going to be.  Not want to be, mind you- AM GOING TO BE.  Slightly more commitment there.

I had a bit of an epiphany recently. It hit out of the blue, as epiphanies are wont to do.  Something had been missing from my perspective for a while, something that seemed to have exited stage left when my creativity went on vacation. I rediscovered it when I started spending time in our yard taking seasonal photos.
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It was a sense of transcendence, finding the sublime in the mundane. The source of my creative ideas had always been rooted in finding the interesting bits among the dull piles, whether it be a turn of phrase that sparked a story idea, a particular angle of a shot that made something everyday look ethereal, or finding a way to flesh out a visual from my brain into some form of practical media. I’d stopped looking. I’d stopped SEEING it. I think a lot of people have turned off that part of their perception. Because it’s always there, nestled amid the grey and ugly and boring things that populate our everyday lives. Cynicism blocks it. Boredom makes us gloss right over it. We’re skimming the surface of things all the time.
Because we’re in such a rush to see and know and read and connect with EVERYTHING, we miss the individual, the small things that fill the spaces between the big events, the shouting masses, the bombastic imagery.

I’d lost that quiet place in my brain where things take root, and grow. I’d stuffed my skull, from floor to ceiling with amusements, trite and banal, with anger at things I had little investment or control over, and with the dull cotton stuffing that inevitably accompanies reading the bottom half of the internet. Music had stopped being inspirational or soundtracks for the visuals in my head, relegated to background noise with a pleasant tone or a memorable beat. I’d literally stripped the color and flavor from my life. Some of it, I can blame on the resurgence of my depression, which always covers everything in shades of gray. There were enough crises that cropped up that escalated from manageable to chaotic that made focus nonexistent. I found small moments where I was able to recover enough clarity to accomplish SOME creative output. Ultimately, the biggest killer of that momentum was spending hours online, accomplishing little more than attempting to amuse my friends, keep up with every single post or comment or Tweet and playing the passive observer, rather than contributing anything of note.

The husbeast and I have lots of conversations. Mostly talking about what we want to do, what we haven’t been doing….and of course, what we would do if our circumstances were different.  So we talk and talk and talk and rarely act on any of it. He finally said the other day, “How about we shut up and do something?” And we did. This preceded the aforementioned epiphany, but I hazard a guess that it contributed to it’s revelation.

Something has shifted recently, birthing this need to be constantly informed, “up” on things…this dread of being left out or left behind. I know it’s turned this information junkie in me into something of a monster. I need to slay it, kill it dead. Or at least reduce it from Godzilla to an ostensibly smaller lizard I can cage up and put away.

So–intent for 2014. Regain my transcendence. Regain my focus. Make more things. I think I’m going to set myself a challenge to make something new every day, whether it be trying a new recipe or writing a new scene, creating a new art piece or even just writing a brain dumping blog piece. This of course means that I need to make space for creation in my life. I plan on cutting back my online time, indefinitely. I plan on cutting back on my tv time. Less talk more action, as the husbeast says. I’m going to do my damnedest to get out and experience the world first hand, instead of living vicariously through photos and videos online.

I’m going to be turning 47 in a couple weeks, and I think that’s as good a time as any to cut the ties on the person I seem to have slipped sideways into being, and literally face the upcoming year as a blank canvas.

The person I am going to be is someone I can be proud of, someone who will add new things to this world, not just idly sit by and watch others create.

So goodbye 2013, with your sadness, your dull detour into the doldrums, and your barrage of self-defeating idleness. Hello, 2014. Challenge me. Make me sharper. Make me MORE. I’m ready.





Expanding your Toolbox

27 09 2013

Personal update first:
Glanced at the dates and cringed. But I have a legitimate reason for falling off the posting cliff –After years of waffling, the Husbeast and I are FINALLY putting our house on the market, and getting ready to relocate.

Granted– our grand plans to move to the Pacific Northwest have been knocked over under the weight of financial realities, but they are not fully dead. Postponed rather than killed off.

We’re looking further east in Indiana, mostly because we can get more house for our (rather meager) housing dollar.

Now onto the meat of this post. The husbeast and I were chatting in the car this morning, heading to the train station where I drop him off for the commute into The City where he works. And by chatting I mean, he groggily nodded as I pontificated out loud. As you do.

We were listening to music from zee iPod and a My Chemical Romance song came on. I commented at length that I loved artists who had multiple outlets –e.g. Gerard Way sings (well, SANG) for MCR, but also has a very healthy career in comics, award winning even. Steven Archer & Donna Lynch from the band Ego Likeness also make amazing art & write great books.   It’s really less about the number of things that these artistic multi-taskers work on and more interesting to look at why they do it.

A lot of my friends are artists, writers and musicians. Not a calculated thing, I just have more in common with them. Most of them are single art/media focused. Which is fine, because they are VERY GOOD at that particular media. Several others are multimedia. Some have pursued the different branches of the art tree because they got bored of one particular track, or because, due to one unforeseen event or another, had to change track. (Injuries, money, relocation, etc.)

But there are a handful of my artist friends and idols who juggle multiple disciplines for the same reason I do: to expand their toolbox.

As creatives, a lot of us are usually juggling a bunch of ideas in our noggin, which makes for some uneasy translations from brain to physical manifestation.  Results can vary from satisfactory to “oh gods why did I even bother???” If you work in a single media, that can make things even more challenging, as a single media is limiting. If you only paint or sculpt or write, sometimes getting the idea in your head to manifest in the physical world can be like shoving the proverbial square peg into a round hole.

Your toolbox, as it were, doesn’t contain the right tool to tell the story or describe the image in your head.

At this point you can do one of three things: 1) wrestle the idea into shape as best as you can with the tools at hand, 2) abandon the idea and work on something else, or 3) you can decide to expand your toolbox and manifest the story/idea through different means.

Number 3 can be both exhilarating and daunting by equal measure. Trying a new method of idea translation, especially one you’re not well versed in,  can be frustrating.  But if you at least try, you might be surprised at the results. No one is going to be an expert the first time you try another method. If you’re a good painter, you’re not going to switch to sculpting and create at the same level instantly.  But here’s the rub: ideas are fluid and complex and never come with a step by step instruction how to manifest them. By adding different tools to your toolbox, you give yourself a wider selection of ways to tell your creative story.

I started out as a writer, with no intent of trying another media. I wrote to give my ephemeral brain stew some structure. Words were my building blocks. My ideas always came as images. Sometimes moving, sometimes still. The moving images were easier to write. They were movies, complete with soundtracks and actors and dialogue. I was writing the transcripts of these snippets and then, like putting concrete around a wire frame, I built a story.

The still images? They’re vivid, they’re specific and they don’t really do more than lodge themselves in my brain, waiting for passage into the physical world.  I stashed them in my brain locker , in carefully labelled Tupperware, for later use.

A few years ago, The Husbeast decided to take some stained glass classes. He’s a graphic design production artist, so his comfort zone is working with computers and design software. Learning a hands-on, physical art was new for him. (He’d dabbled in painting and art classes in high school, but nothing serious). He was instantly hooked. He started building pieces, working towards making Tiffany reproduction lampshades. Watching him get absorbed in translating images in his head using pieces of of glass and metal was fascinating. I started thinking that, since my novel had stalled in the middle of my gazillionth editing pass, maybe I too should find a craft that would allow a different outlet. Since there was a metric tonne of small glass pieces and leftovers from The Husbeast’s projects, I decided to try my hand at mosaics. I made some pieces for Christmas presents, and they turned out pretty damn good. Then the inevitable happened: The ideas started poking out the Tupperware in my head. All those still images that had stumped me now had a way to manifest. I bought sketchbooks, and to my surprise, found out I wasn’t too bad at drawing the things in my head. But even with this new tool in the toolbox, I realized that there were still ideas that I sketched that wouldn’t be served by mosaics. So I’m learning to paint, and photograph, and sculpt.  I want to learn to make tiles and pottery. I want to have as many tools at my fingertips as I can, so I don’t have to shove ideas into that Tupperware anymore.

I have no idea if I’ll be any good at any of these new tools, but my perspective has shifted.

Instead of taking my ideas and wrestling with them to make them work with the tool I’m best at, I’m now letting the idea dictate the tool.  I think all of us, all creatives, can be served better by increasing the options in our toolbox.

It doesn’t matter if it’s something as simple as learning a new brushstroke or switching the substrate you work on or changing the genre of your story, or if you decide to completely change the medium to something you’ve never tried before.

Tell your story in the best way you can.  Don’t be afraid if it seems impossible.

You got the idea, created it from nothing into something. Somehow, I think if your brain gifts you with art, it probably already knows how you need to make it.  Just find the art equivalent of the Babel Fish to translate it into life.





Unexpected lesson from “Unplugging”

9 07 2013

Weather: Dear benevolent deities, we have achieved July Steambath weather. Upper 80s, Humid as hell. GAH!

So I took a week off from the interwebs. 

But I really didn’t.

Yeah, I checked my e-mail. Glanced briefly at Facebook. Glanced briefly at Twitter. The only real change in my habits for that week was I didn’t interact. Or respond. Made for a lot of tongue biting and twitchy fingers. But I got art done. And peace of mind came in the silence and lack of brain clutter.

The unexpected result from this, once I returned to social media interaction, was that I was suddenly, acutely aware of the incivility of people. Not that it was new, or even had increased in volume. The fact was, I had forced myself into re-sensitizing. I’d become numb to it to be honest, and I could see that pretty much everyone else was numb to it too. Oh sure, if things got particularly egregious, people reacted. But for the most part the reaction was the usual -”It’s the internet” Shrug. Advice not to feed the trolls. Let it pass. It’s not worth the fight. Let the bile and venom build, just throw a tarp over it. If we ignore it, it’ll go away.

While I understand this is the nature of a free and open internet, I kinda found myself really getting irritated more than usual.

So I made a decision.

I’m not allowing incivility in my life anymore.

Before I get a litany of “free speech” , “I have a right to express my opinion”, “I don’t believe in sugar coating…” BLAH BLAH BLAH — Re-read my sentence there.

I didn’t say YOU couldn’t be uncivil. Or rude. Or opinionated. Feel free! Knock yourself out.

I said I wasn’t allowing it in MY life.

Let me clarify.

I have opinions. Strong ones. Usually pretty fucking liberal ones. But I tend to keep them to myself for the most part. That’s been a conscious decision on my part. I’m sure people can infer where I stand on things by the nature of the pages I like on Facebook or the people I quote or the feeds I follow on Twitter. This isn’t me trying to camouflage my leanings. They are what they are. I just don’t feel the need to explain them or defend them to the internet at large. They’re my opinions. That’s it.

I know others have opinions. Strong opinions. Some that line up with mine. Some that don’t. Some that stand violently in opposition to mine. That’s also fine. My mum and I overlap on some things, but can get a little heated discussing others.

I tend to err on the side of you having a right to differ in opinion or view or fandom or anything. Frankly, and to be blunt: I really don’t care.

Even more blunt: I really don’t spend more than a half minute to read your rants or screeds. If I disagree, I just stop reading.

Here’s a harsh reality that no one wants to hear: I have zero obligation to hear your counterpoint to my beliefs. Just like you have zero obligation to hear mine. It’s a courtesy on both our parts to do so. I’m always willing to listen if your counterpoints are presented coherently, backed up with facts from good sources (not news pundits or “my friend/relative says they heard…) and delivered with the intent to inform not inflame.

Hell, I get annoyed by people I AGREE with when they constantly flog things with histrionics and flimsy at best facts underlying  their rants.

Also? I have little patience for conspiracy theories. I don’t place much credence in any of them, regardless of topic matter. I DO believe in healthy skepticism & not placing 100% trust in any institution or authority. But give me facts, numbers and not a series of links to websites with little of either.

So there’s my take on online posting  for the most part. Circling back to my point.

I’m tired of all the yelling. Nobody is listening anymore. We just keep shouting louder and louder, hoping volume will get us heard. We use shocking pictures to get people’s attention. (BTW– Showing me a picture of an abused animal or child will get you blocked immediately. I KNOW IT HAPPENS. I support a lot of aid groups to PREVENT it from happening or help after the fact. In fact, as one of my friends recently pointed out– WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE WITH THAT? If you have someone on your FB page or Twitter feed who thinks that’s okay? You might want to reassess your friends. Otherwise YOU ARE PREACHING TO THE CHOIR AND MERELY UPSETTING YOUR FRIENDS!)

When I say I’m not tolerating the incivility anymore? Here’s my solution.

1: I’m going to maintain a level of positive and calm when I post online. (With a minor exception for squee, which is inevitably positive for the most part anyway) If something angers me, I will do my best to post only some way to take action on it, not just grouse, grumble or bitch about it. All that results in is a choir of “I’m pissed too” which doesn’t do anything to FIX it.

2: If you are on my feed and are constantly posting political, religious or personal rants? If they’re civil and presenting facts, fine. If they consist of “Everyone opposite me is an asshole” or “I dislike a thing and anyone who likes that thing is an idiot”? I’ll hide your post. Twice. Third time, I’m dropping you. I don’t care if we’ve been friends for years or family. NOTE: I AM NOT TELLING YOU WHAT TO POST OR HOW TO POST IT, I’m just saying I don’t want that shit on my timeline anymore. You can continue to vent your spleen or share your views. I just won’t be part of your audience. I’m fairly certain you won’t notice my absence.

3.: I have a zero tolerance position on implied abuse of children/animals, bigotry, homophobia, religion bashing, or misogyny. ZERO. I give two shits if you think that’s overly PC or that I lack a sense of humor. If you find any of those things funny? You’re probably right about my sense of humor.  Again, I’m not telling you to stop posting those things. Carry on. I just won’t be around to “enjoy” them.

4:  I’M NOT ASKING ANYONE ELSE TO JOIN ME IN THIS. Free world and free will, all that stuff. As a human being living in this increasingly awful environment, I’m simply making the choice to live differently. More positive. More civil. And if I need to express dismay at something, I will do so when I am calm and do so reasonably.

And no, I don’t care what you think about this. I don’t care if you think it will make a difference. I don’t care if you’re offended by what I’ve said above.  I DO NOT CARE.

And don’t think that I’m not amused that I’m making this announcement in a blog post. Didn’t say I won’t have my contrary moments.

The reason why I’m using a blog post to share this? I just want people to be aware of why I may no longer be on their friends-list or following them anymore.

Ultimately, I just want to get my brain away from triggery things and negativity that I have zero control over fixing. Because, shock of all shocks, I’m a fixer. I’m far too empathetic for my own good, and I can only absorb so much of other people’s indiscriminate anger and venom before I have to walk away.

I have a lot of major life changes facing me right now, and to be blunt, one last time, I don’t have time to waste on internet drama anymore.  I’d rather enjoy things and make things and do what I can to get things to change for the better. Raise people up rather than tear them down. Spotlight people who do good rather than focus only on the bad.

So, only positive or productive interactions going forward. I’m sure the internet, and the world, will spin ever on without my having to know everything about EVERYTHING. If I can help someone I will. If I can stop something bad, I will do what I can. But I’m done talking this shit to death. Will my attempts here change things? Maybe. Maybe not. But you know what definitely WON’T change things? Shrugging and accepting that that’s just the way things are.

I promise my next blog post will be more substantial and contain actual art & writing content. :)





Wherein I realize I need to revisit Square One…Hiatus time.

27 06 2013

Weather: Summerlike: 80s & humid, with a light soupçon of thunderstorms in the forecast.

I was reading an interview with Neil Gaiman about his latest release, An Ocean At The End of the Lane, and one response stuck with me. Oddly, it wasn’t writing related, at least not on the surface. It was related to creativity, however. Neil has made a lot of fantastic observations and comments to the idea of art and how we make it….or how we don’t.

The question and answer were this: (From this interview, Here)

And how does one cultivate imagination?

I think the thing that we all have to do is to cultivate boredom again. The trouble is having those little handheld devices that will entertain you. That’s the biggest trouble with the imagination—it’s the killer. You need to find yourself stuck in a place where you can’t do anything other than think. Then your mind wanders and you can go to fantastic places.

(Emphasis mine.)

That bolded line hit very close to home. I’ve been going through dry spell after dry spell, both in writing and art. While I’ve had moments of inspiration, they are sporadic and don’t seem to take hold for long.  Insecurity as an artist is almost a foregone conclusion, but sometimes we spend far too much time zeroing in on our lack of productivity while wrapped in the cloak of “I’ve lost the ability to create/ maybe never had it / I’m a hack”. But we usually don’t add in the external causes, or we blame them entirely, vaguely, desperately. Too little time, too many distractions, the muse doesn’t inspire, too tired, too busy, too much or too little of anything or everything.

The truth is, in all honesty, is lack of will. Harsh truth, that . Inspiration is important, don’t get me wrong, but practice, and repetition, and focus make up for a multitude of evils, (i.e. distractions).

One of my inspirations, Karen Ami , a mosaic artist and the Executive Director of the Chicago Mosaic School, recently wrote a blog post about the importance of practice.  ( HERE: Art. Practice.)  Important quote from there:

Resistance- the voices of insecurity can get in the way of your practice but are important to hear.  Am I talented enough? The dance of avoidance. TIME and ACTION OVERCOMES FEAR.

Her point was that in the current crazy fast paced environment, a lot of creative energy is being poured into the end result (marketing, selling) and less into the practice of making & creating, the very thing that makes you better and starts muting that voice of insecurity as an artist.
Another quote from that blog post links up with Neil’s quote above:

Facebook is fun and a great place to see what’s going on with all these other artists and see what your friends have eaten for dinner or look at my new cute dog but like most of what is going on online- it is a timesuck that pulls you away from your practice and honing your skills and voice in the studio. So stop reading this and  go make something.

The point that I’m trying to relay here is that in this age of easy availability of information & ease of interaction, we’re starting to fill the spaces in our heads we used to reserve for creating with data dumps and entertainment. Neil said it best up there. Boredom is not a great thing, but it does force us into our heads to find something to do with our jittery, information addicted braincells.

The technology isn’t really to blame. We are. Yeah, I know that’s not a popular idea, but hear me out. We’re rapidly becoming unable, or more accurately, UNWILLING, to put down our mobile devices or iPads or laptops, and just….let our minds create. We spend hours “researching” or “looking for inspiration”.  Waste hours discussing on Facebook, or Twitter, or other social media our inability to get things done. We’ve succumbed to the cult of BUSY, without really looking at WHY we are so busy.

Truth is, and I know a lot of people hate to hear this, we need to disconnect now and then. The world will go on, and it won’t end if you are not incessantly involved/informed. We can miss things and not be the less for them. I know myself that disconnecting causes a form of withdrawal, a twitchy need for the datastream needle. Refreshing for something new and mostly being frustrated that there isn’t anything.

Technology is a tool, nothing more, nothing less. We are the variable, the component that uses the tool for good or for bad.

Some people can use it and still get their pages written and their projects completed. Artists and writers need to keep a healthy balance of  technology usage and offline creative time. I know I have a difficult time doing that. So, in deference to the title of this rambly bit of nonsense, I am taking a week off the interwebs, except to check e-mail. I’m disconnecting my laptop from the internet during that time.

Why? Because I need to prove something to myself. If at the end of the week I can meet the challenges I’ve set for myself (Finish a mosaic project, plan my next project, finish editing my manuscript and outline a new book, catch up on my reading), then maybe I will have reset my creative brain. Again, I don’t think technology is to BLAME for my dry spell, but I think it’s made it easier for me to  avoid focusing on it. An easy excuse that I’ve been “busy”, that I’m getting inspiration from my surfing. That I’m marketing our business. That I’m networking.

Bullshit.

As Karen said above, my focus is misdirected. I’m trying to create for the marketplace instead of trying to create the best art I can make. I’ve been uninspired by my creations. Bored by the results. That should have been the first red flags. Same thing for my writing. I’m finding my stories to be trope ridden, cliche filled and lacking the passion I used to have. My moleskines have been collecting dust as I tried to work on Scrivener, easily distracted by the open internet browser.

The bottom line is I am an artist and a writer. But I haven’t served either epithet lately. The title has to be earned by action, not by mere intent or declaration.

My wise and insightful friend Karen Boykin wrote a blog on treating art as work, and she said:

Do I value improving my artistic expression enough to experiment; to waste a few canvases to become more adept at using that tools, mediums, and paints to give visual voice to what’s inside my head in a way that I consider meaningful? Even it it’s just an hour or two every day, I must believe that spending my time in this way will pay dividends in the form of happiness and a sense of purpose I’ve been searching for. That is my kind of work!

Mine too!

So, hiatus. For a week. To start.

Time to recapture a less distracted creative mindset. Square one may be disheartening, but sometimes a reset is the best way to clear the decks of detritus.

To quote one last person, Chuck Wendig, who is my writing spirit animal with a profane voice, (From here)

Think about your story. Think about your art. Go elbow deep. Get into the guts like you’re trying to birth a humpback whale. Art is a kind of madness. Story is messy, weird, gory, greasy, hard to grasp. But always try. We’re all flying blind. We’re all feeling around in the wet-slick dark for the baby whale. Reach further. Think more. Art harder, motherfuckers.

If you are struggling with productivity, I highly recommend this article, especially the short video. :)

Then get offline for awhile and find that quiet space to create.

See you on the other side.





Facing the proverbial fork in the road…..

23 05 2013

Weather: mid 50s & rainy. Unseasonably cool.

When I saw the date of the last post, I cringed. Best intentions to keep up with blogging, covered in dust and cobwebs. Funny how life gets in the way of other things.

The last few months have been filled with the usual roller coaster of ups and downs, and I would do most of them a disservice to merely recap them. Suffice it to say that I’m still not quite where I want to be, but after jumping through a few hoops and stubbornly chipping away at the usual obstacles, I’m at least on the path.

The husbeast and I decided that , faced with the painful realities of our financial situation, moving cross country is not in the cards for us. However, we are still adamant about moving out of our current home. So, compromise was to move into a condo/loft in Chicago and get some separate studio space to finally get our stained glass/mosaic art career going full bore.

Compromises. Life is full of them. Some of them are necessary. Some of them inevitable. Most of them are like eating your vegetables – you know you have to, but sometimes they’re hard to swallow.

Today is the 7th anniversary of my dad’s death. Sucks every year. I miss him so much. I’m sad that he was unable to see me succeed at my passions. I’m sad that he’s not here to go see superhero films with me. I know he would have loved The Avengers & the Dark Knight movies. I miss his humor, I miss his advice….mostly I miss his gentle ability to help me see the silver lining in any situation. Really could use that right now. But I know in my bones that all the things he taught me and shared with me have helped me get through some tough times. So in some sense, he’s always here. It will have to suffice.

Currently I’m trying to improve my art skills, though I have the insecurity that comes with the lack of art schooling that many of my peers have, and that makes for some difficult decision making.   I’ve been spending a lot of time, both in classes and open studio at the Chicago Mosaic School, learning with some of the foremost artists in this field. It’s humbling and exhilarating at the same time. I’m also highly aware of how much I need to still learn. Thankfully I have gentle teachers who support my meager attempts.  Always a good thing. Seeing my view widen and the opportunities multiply can only inspire me to try more paths and techniques. I love mosaics. Love the history and the methods and the unlimited ways my visions can be fleshed out. Art has actually turned into therapy for me, much in the way that writing has. My brain is overcrowded. It’s always a good thing to have multiple ways to bleed off some of the noise.

The only bad thing that has arisen that I’m still dealing with is the ever-addictive rabbithole that is the internet. It’s become far too easy to disconnect the brain and fill it with mindless hours, surfing social media and cycling through the refreshing until hours have passed and I’m bored to tears or guilty at the lost time. It’s entertainment, nothing more. I’m not researching anything or even getting inspired. The only thing the endless refreshing is doing is ruining my eyesight and numbing my brain. My focus is shot to hell and truth be told, all I’ve discovered is that people are unencumbered by empathy or courtesy. (Neither is an earth shattering revelation, but it can erode your soul after a while) .  So why blog today? After all this time? Because I’ve reached the point of internet saturation where I’m so bored of politics and fandom insanity that I can’t be arsed to go to my usual sites. I’m burnt out mentally.  Television is only moderately more entertaining. Now that my fave shows have hit summer hiatus,  maybe I can take a few months to focus on getting my  creative brain back up to speed. Don’t get me wrong. It has been in my power to do this at anytime. I freely admit to taking the easy path. The work doesn’t get done because I’m not doing it, plain and simple. No excuses.

As much as it grieves me to say this, it’s time to grow up a bit. I feel like it’s time for me to choose a path. I’m at that proverbial fork in the road. This one is more fractious than previous ones. No soft landing this time, no half-assing. It’s the art path or the easy entertainment path.  Keeping up has become more important than making things. And I honestly am angry at myself for that. Until I can find a way to balance the fun  with the work, I need to focus on becoming a doer rather than someone who simply, PASSIVELY lets the world go by. I need to get out of observer mode, become a participant again. Depression has not helped. Bad health has not helped. Being overly empathetic to everyone else’s issues has not helped. Truth be told, my life has gotten out of control. Time to grasp the reins again, because the alternative is to just let go of them, and give up on anything other than a pale imitation of life.

I prefer bold colors to pastels, so I think I’ll put down my mouse and pick up my paint brush, change the vista.

I’m unplugging for a while.  See if I can find out who I am now. Not who I was. Not who I want to be. WHO I AM.

ETA: Neil Gaiman posted a link to this from his Calendar of Tales project. Perfect encapsulation of my needy artist brain right now. Perfect motivation in under 2 minutes:





Readjusting my perspectives: Imminent Birthday Edition

7 01 2013

Weather: Weirdly warming. In the mid 30s today but heading into the near 50s by weekend.

My birthday is this coming Saturday. I’ll be 46. It’s neither noteworthy or shocking, but it does have some bearing on my life outlook.

Turning 40 was a walk in the park. Turning 45 was cold water on my head. Numbers shouldn’t create such drama, because honestly they’re just arbitrary markers in time. We’re aging at a fairly constant rate. But we’ve applied implications to ages, making them seem more or less important depending on how close they are to other arbitrary life event markers that society seems to plant in our path.

Remember when you were 18? Remember how old 30 seemed? I imagined myself married with kids and settled into some middle aged soccer mom life. Wait….did I say IMAGINED? No I was pretty terrified of that idea, even then. Not the married or kids part, but the settled part.

So 30 came and I was a little disconcerted that I was neither married nor a parent. Or settled. Wasn’t that the expectation? Granted there was a bit of fist pumping involved that I still felt young and vibrant. (Although, truth be told, it wasn’t like I was living like a rock star or out traveling or doing any of the other myriad lifestyle choices that seem to excuse an absence of a settled life to most people’s eyes.)

Then I was 40. Still not feeling my age. Not really looking what I expected to look like at 40. Married. Homeowner. And then the discomfort started settling into my bones. Trying to get back in shape was a much steeper hill to climb. My list of “things to do before you’re too old”  needed to shrink a bit. Decisions that I could have made for my life at 29 seemed to have fewer viable options.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not doing the “I’m too old to do things” kinda whine. I firmly believe that unless you’re six feet under, you shouldn’t ever give up the possibility of trying something new.  Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a realistic view of how much longer the recovery time will be if it goes pear shaped. ;) I think I’m just more pragmatic.

I’m viewing the things on my list with a more realistic perspective. It’s more a case of “You can do anything you want, you just can’t do everything.” I’m also trying to live more simply. Less stuff, more  experiences. Fewer toys, fewer distractions.

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I find clinging to things out of nostalgia is kind of useless for me. (Note, I don’t begrudge others this, because it is a source of comfort to some.) For example, I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and while there was some fantastic music that came out of that era, I don’t understand people who enshrine it to the point of not listening to anything past that era. Mostly because I remember there was an equal amount of crap music that came out during that time frame. Don’t believe me? Go look at the top 50 songs for those years. Seriously. I’ll wait. ::HUMS TO HERSELF::  Did you see a lot of bands and songs you don’t remember? There you go.

Do I wish I had my figure from when I was 18? Oh hell yes. Do I want to be 18 again? OH HOLY CRAP NO! I’ve earned every small worry line, silver hair and  knee ache that I experience today.  I have a much healthier & wider scoped outlook on things and this world that has been EARNED by experiencing it first hand. Time is a tricky thing. Looking back we can see all the places we’d fix things, spare ourselves some hurt or sidestep a bad experience. Sometimes those regrets overwhelm the good things that came from just living day to day.  Time marches forward, no matter what earth shattering thing has been dropped in your lap.

I guess the biggest perspective shift for me is this: The more things I cling to from the past- good, bad or ugly- the less space there is in my life for new things.  Because if you’re honest with yourself, there is comfort in things we know, whether they’re good or bad. Comfort zones are appealing, but if that’s all you have? You’re not really changing as a person. You’re not growing.

Trying something new is a risk. There aren’t necessarily any guarantees. But that’s why it’s necessary to try. I could have stuck with playing it safe – never letting anyone read my stories, never trying to make art for other people, never moved across this country, never reached out to people outside my comfort zone of conversation- and probably I could have been happy. But I’m glad I did. I’ve got friends all over the world, some similar to me, some only overlapping with me on the thinnest of things. I’ve met some amazing people because I refused to let my sometimes crippling self-consciousness stop me from stepping up and saying hi! I’ve learned things and experienced things, some good, some bad, some life-changing, and some mind-blowing.

The thing is, all this LIVING has landed me at 45, almost 46, with a pretty damn good idea of who I am. I still falter now and then, allowing others to define me in their terms, or trusting the wrong people or the wrong information, but I don’t let it weigh me down for too long. The pendulum can swing wildly in all aspects of life, but it is only still when it rests in the middle. The older I get, the shorter the time off center I spend. My opinions change, my views alter, and my life adapts accordingly. Age does that to you, and it should.

So these days, being settled isn’t a bad thing, because I’m settled by my own definition. I’m finding things that bring me joy. I’m releasing the things that are outdated or have no place in my life anymore. I try to keep looking forward, because while looking back may bring some comfort, even some perspective, it doesn’t add anything new to my life.  You can’t look at the world with fresh perspective if you keep viewing it through the same lenses of cynicism, old pain or golden hued nostalgia.

Of course that won’t stop me from the occasional grumpy “Damn kids today” exhortation. :)

As always, Your Mileage May Vary.





Keeping promises I’ve made to myself.

2 01 2013

Weather:  Frigid and sunny. High: 28°

So it’s January 2nd, but I’m treating it like the first day of the new year. (Yesterday I was too headachy and tired to get on top of my new routine)

Today I started a new workout regimen. It’s varied and, as all new workouts do, kicking my arse all over the place. Still, my goal is getting healthy, not attempting to be a Victoria’s Secret model. (I’m too short anyway. So there.)

On a related note, I’m getting back to my pre-holiday eating habits. OY, did I slide on that between Thanksgiving and Christmas. :headdesk: Too much sugar, cookies, bread, and I think I cornered the market on dairy products. SO–guess what is on the cutting block? Yep. Going  back on a mostly vegetarian diet (OvoVegetarian to be specific), and drinking more water. The food may have tasted fantastic, but I feel awful. Piper’s knocking. Time to get paid. Fecking Piper. ::grumbles::

New Year’s eve was spent kissing the old year goodbye, rather than spending too much time stressing the new year’s expectations.  Husbeast and I spent the day getting some studio work done. As evidence that the business is starting to take off, I sold a mosaic piece within 2 hours of posting it. Definitely motivating to keep my work pace at a steady rate. Nothing makes you productive like seeing your art sell. :)

Next week, I start classes at the Chicago Mosaic School , a yuletide present from my husband. It’s less about learning how to make mosaics, and more about finessing my skills. I’m self taught, and the longer I go on, the more I’m realizing I need to improve my techniques and output. So, off I go to unlearn some  bad skills and re-learn better ones.

On the writing front, I’m almost done with a major overhaul of my first book. Had to blow cobwebs off the manuscript a couple weeks ago, but the time away actually had clarified where I needed to go with it. Sometimes it’s better to let it lie to see it more clearly.

Still trying to sort through some self-pubbing platforms. May just end up posting some short pieces I have done, and excerpt the novel. Lots of options, but I need to pick one.

The title of this post is significant in how I’m approaching my so called resolutions. It’s less about living up to other people’s expectations, more about keeping me accountable to myself.  Some things have become very clear in the past couple years. I’ve realized I’ve relied too much on external pressures and peers to keep me on the right path. My intents and drive suffered because I let go of the wheel. The months since I left my job found me sinking into spirals of depression and allowing all my best plans and goals to disintegrate under the weight of imagined failures and false, unrealistic benchmarks based on other’s successes or expectations. Too many cooks in the mental soup, so to speak.  Finally, I decided it was time to scrap this obviously broken view and replace it with something far simpler: Take it one day at a time. Don’t allow yourself to spend more time on unproductive things than things with measurable results. If it’s making you miserable, let it go. Cynicism and anger are reactionary, not means to an end.

Basically, if I want to get myself moving forward and staying in motion, I need to avoid wasting time on things and people who impede that progress.  Mind you, this is not me telling others to change their views, attitudes or opinions. I simply am not going to join in with the cloud crowd. I’m gonna do my best to pick out the silver lining and run with it. I’m not naive. I realize things are kinda crappy now on many levels. But I’m tired of being in the Greek Chorus chiming in how awful things are, while doing nothing to change them.  Are there pointless endeavors? Sure. But I’d like to think that failing after trying is 1000% better than throwing up my hands and not trying at all. At least in making the attempt to fix or improve things, you have a possibility of success, granted with varying degrees of probability.

So, the promises I’ve made to myself are simply that.  I’m the only one I have to please or disappoint. Other people’s opinions or acceptance or dismissals do not matter. Ultimately, only I can determine whether I will succeed or fail on my goals. Time to get to work!








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